Comics Creators

The Music Thread


It may differ by level of popularity I think. It’s true that a lot of up and coming and jobbing acts always have subsisted mostly on revenue from gigs.

The middle and top tiers though have reported a huge dropoff in revenue from recordings in recent years. A lot used to sustain themselves that way and rarely perform live.


It used to be that recording an album was so expensive that when you started out you couldn’t record anything, gigging was your only option and you had to hope you would get noticed by someone who would finance your first record. But at least once it was recorded you could live off it for a year while you recorded the next one.

Now, the tools are there for you to record an album in your bedroom for $0. Many bands do that first and skip gigging entirely. But if your album then doesn’t make money for you, well that’s great if it’s a vanity project, not so great if your career choice is “musician” and you want to feed your family.

And as James says, the industry will adapt, it’s not guaranteed doom and gloom, perhaps everybody will win in the end. But if we don’t raise the spectre of doom and gloom, why would it bother adapting? Every album you stream on Spotify (new comic you read on Unlimited) gives them data that says, “This is working guys, carry on.”


Just for the record, on his bestselling album Frampton Comes Alive!, Peter wrote 11 of the 14 songs and co-wrote 2 others with his bandmates. The only non-Frampton song on the album was a cover of “Jumping Jack Flash”. All the songs that got heavy Top 40 radio play (“Baby, I Love Your Way”, “Show Me the Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do”) are Frampton originals.


So I should probably clarify my position a bit. I’m not saying that musicians shouldn’t make money from their song/album sales. I’m saying traditionally the vast majority of them haven’t except for the small window where iTunes was the primary platform for music sales. There are several reasons for this.

In the older model, record companies are the ones who made money off album sales except in the rare case that a musician/band had gotten big enough to negotiate a marginally equitable contract. This is why only the incredibly large artists were concerned with Napster. Most of them were making little to no money off the album sales anyway. Also, the project the RIAA was working on before the Napster deal was to make sure that rights to an artist’s masters never reverted back to them as the do now after a set period of time.

The real money in music is not actually in the sale of the album, it’s in the ownership of the songs and the ability to license those. ASCAP is not concerned with musicians unless those musicians are also the music rights holders. It’s why authorship and the retention of music rights matter in this conversation. It feels like Frampton is leaving something out.

Lastly, the primary avenue most (at least American) musicians have had for income is touring. We’re largely back in that space now though really never stepped much outside it. Some artists like Chance the Rapper choose to only make their music available on streaming services because they feel it gives them more control and their real revenue is from touring. As someone else pointed out, Youtube’s terms are much worse than Spotify and artists like Frampton willing post their music to that platform. If he still owns his music, he also has the ability to pull it from Spotify if he so chooses.

Conversely, comic creators don’t have the same level of ability to make money from their craft outside the sale of comics unless they leave comics for other work. That’s where it’s to our advantage to support them. I also support the bands and musicians I like. I don’t really stream all that much preferring buying what I like on vinyl (usually with a download code) or on rare occasions just digital.

There just seemed a bit of faux outrage on Frampton’s part and something he’s leaving out of the story. Also, what about the guys in Frampton’s band? Is anyone worried about them or are they just gigging musicians who have already been paid? Did Frampton write every single part in his songs? I tend to prefer bands to single musicians for this reason.


Not to the same degree, but I know artists can sell original art and prints on the side for quite a bit, and presumably there are other sidelines too.

I’m not saying it’s the same thing exactly, just that I think if we’re going to be mindful of artists in one profession earning a sustainable income, we should extend that to others too.


I don’t disagree at all. It’s just that traditionally albums and the radio play they would garner (another avenue where people aren’t paying for music) have almost acted as advertisements for tours during most of the history of popular music. The example of Chance the Rapper using streaming for that kind of places things back in the same realm.


Yep, I don’t disagree.

As a consumer though it feels like I’m putting a lot less money into music than I ever did in the past, and I’m able to listen to a lot more music than ever before, effectively for nothing through services like Spotify.

Is the extra money that is coming in via the streaming services and advertisers (and other revenue streams) making up for the shortfall there?


I agree with the gist of it Ronnie but I think you are underestimating the record sale income before any digital, and since The Beatles the majority of major artists write and perform their own songs so the two aren’t as easily divided. An exception is probably the boy band/teen singer genre but that’s basically a pit of exploitation stories.

If we go back before iTunes to the 80s and 90s I can think of several mid level artists that sustained careers never playing live, often based on the style of music (electronic/R&B rather than rock). A lot of New Romantic acts barely if ever played live.

Just to check it wasn’t geographic bias I can find several American news sources with pretty much the same message of a change from previous decades away from sustaining on album sales. This is Rolling Stone in 2012.

Over the past decade-plus, the old-fashioned way of making money in the music business – selling recorded albums – has dropped off a cliff, splintered into a zillion pieces and been run over by that methylene train from Breaking Bad . Many top stars have switched their focus to selling concert tickets

I’m not exactly crying for Frampton either, I’m sure he has way more money than me, but I’ve heard the same from so many informed sources that I have to think there’s truth in it.

It is of course evolving all the time. Amanda Palmer often makes $80,000 a month from Patreon before she plays a gig.


The Beatles are actually a great example as the didn’t own their catalog even though they wrote a lot of it. It famously ended Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson’s friendship when McCartney advised Jackson that the money in the music industry was in owning the rights to songs and Jackson bought the rights to The Beatles’ music. I’m not sure where that ownership lies now but performance, authorship and ownership don’t always coincide.

That’s so weird. The same sources are the ones that would claim what I am saying in relation to the Napster era and then later talk about what a boon iTunes was to the mid to lower tier artists.

Edit: Just rereading it. They do say “music business” which doesn’t necessarily mean artists. Record companies have always made their money off the records. That has changed in the digital and streaming era.


This may be a myth.

The Bottom Line

Add it up, and that’s $135,983 in total income for our tour. And we had $147,802 in expenses.

We lost $11,819.

(Exact breakdown in the article.)

And that’s an American band, where it’s feasible to play 23 cities in a single month. The UK doesn’t even have 23 cities, so tours here are much shorter, and so even if you can turn a profit your revenue from the tour in absolute terms is going to be lower than the equivalent band in the US.

That said, there are actually conflicting anecdotal stories, so I think the truth is that it works for some and not for others. But there are enough published examples of how a tour doesn’t earn money that I think many bands absolutely cannot guarantee on making an income solely from touring.


Just because the primary form of income for bands is generally touring doesn’t mean it’s profitable for every band. It would also be interesting what they are counting as expenses. If living accommodations, food and other things they buy on the road are in those, I’m going to start complaining that I’m not paid enough beyond expenses. :wink:

I don’t pretend to be the end all be all of music knowledge but I’ve never heard of Pomplamoose. :wink:


When I saw Fear Factory a couple of years ago, the singer actually said the buying records was still important to them, it determines if they can keep making new music.


But there’s a disconnect with reality here.

The Beatles didn’t own their catalogue and yet owning your catalogue is the way you make money.
The Beatles famously stopped touring entirely and yet touring is the way you make money.
Paul McCartney is a multi-gazillionaire.

At least one of these statements has to be false :smiley:


Nor me, but they’re apparently big enough to sell out 23 cities in a month, so hardly a local pub band :wink:


Depends on the venue size. The US has a wide array of those from pub size to stadiums.


I think that Beatles publishing story is one that informed a lot of bands following them. In truth they were trailblazers in the size of their sales and post 1965 every tune on their albums bar one was written by the band members.

A few big bands (U2 a notable one) also equally share songwriting credits after so many bands have fallen out over the money attributed to publishing. At least in their case it seems to have worked as they’ve never split up of changed members.

Which would fit except there’s a logic deficit. Record labels didn’t make any money from concerts (although they’d encourage them to promote sales), so for the artists to be pushed onto the road it would be their income affected downward.


Record labels didn’t used to make money on tours. They made their money on record sales. It was a bit of a symbiotic (sometimes parasitic relationship). Artists needed a record to tour on and labels needed a tour to promote record sales. Now with record sales down, some labels are actually asking for a piece of the touring money.


Just looked up Pamplamoose out of curiosity. The band consists of Jack Conte and his wife, Nataly Dawn. Jack Conte is the founder of Patreon. So there may be some other motives involved in that breakdown. :wink:


Okay, how it actually works :smile:

Royalties are paid in a few different chunks. For simplicity we’ll focus on the 3 main ones affecting performers.

Artist: The people performing get paid a chunk of every record but only the ones they perform on (not a penny from covers etc). This is how Rod Stewart and Tom Jones can make a lot of money off covers albums.

Songwriter: The listed writer(s) get paid a chunk. Including when used on cover versions or even samples.

Publisher: They get paid a chunk, they lease the rights to music companies, film TV etc. Since The Beatles tale most artists set up their own publishing company to own their songs so they are essentially the full seller of their own product.

So if you don’t own the publishing you lose a sizeable chunk but you can still make money, and a lot of it if you sell as many records as the Beatles, where McCartney has a writing credit on at least 95% of their songs post 1964 and artist on all of them.


The logic issue remains.

You don’t switch if you always made your money that way.

Also now I think of it I’m not really sure where iTunes comes in because that was just different distribution via the same record company contracts. If I buy a U2 record via iTunes I’m buying it from Island Records. Are we just looking there are artists that weren’t signed so could sell directly?